TWO-MINUTE RE-CAP: Back to Gotham

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, April 25, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »


Bradley scores twice, one a highlight reel break-away and one form the goalline that snuck between Lundqvist's pads.

Lundqvist lifted after two.

Varlamov makes 20 saves for his second playoff shutout.

Tortorella gets in a fight with a fan, gets a beer bath and he swung a stick in the fan's direction.

Orr and Voros do what they do best, get kicked out for taking bad penalties.

Ovie adds to his top 10. I'm too tired to explain, just go YouTube it if you haven't seen it. Suffice to say, he scored with Voros riding him into the boards.

Game Six Sunday at 2:00 pm on NBC. Caps News Network will report from the Garden. Pray for us.

The Washington Capitals, down three games to one, host the New York Rangers in Game Five of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's do-or-die for the Caps, facing elimination to the seventh seed in a series they were heavily favored in.


Defenseman Mike Green, one of three Norris Trophy finalists and just the seventh defenseman in NHL history to record a 30-goal season, has recorded just two secondary assists in the four games, and acknowledged that he is not playing at full strength.

"I haven't felt up to par," said Green, who has been suffering from flu-like symptoms all series. "I'm finally getting my mind back and my game under control."

He'll have to dig deep tonight to find some of the energy and speed that earned him the accolades for his performance this season.

"It's definitely a big honor and I'm very proud," Green said yesterday. "It's been a long season and to be rewarded like that is pretty special."


Coach Bruce Boudreau is taking a pragmatic approach to the task at hand.

"We just have to take it one game at a time," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "If we look at it as [being down] 3-1, it's a daunting task. To have to win three games against this goalie, that will make it tough. But if we look at it, we just have to win Friday. And then we'll worry about Sunday when Sunday comes. To me it's a one-game series right now."

The Caps rallied from being down 3-1 to Philadelphia last season before losing Game Seven, so this isn't uncharted waters. But Boudreau doesn't want this year's team thinking about last year's fate.

"But if we dwell on last year, we'll end up where we were last year, so we've got to dwell on what's in front of us. It's a new situation, a new team. We didn't get the job done last year, and this year hopefully in the same situation we will."


On Tuesday, Alex Ovechkin admitted surfing the internet message boards to gauge the feelings on the Capitals rabid fan base.

"I just want to see how our fans react," Ovechkin said. "Of course, they're not happy, but we're not happy, either. But it is what it is. We lost three games. I think we play good enough in the games, but one guy beats our team."

The "one guy" he referred to is Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has played extremely well in New York's three wins. Lundqvist allowed just one goal on 39 shots in Game Three.

Brooks Laich made the solution simple, "We just have to make sure to find a way to bear down on our opportunities and somehow find the back of the net."

Ovechkin had a message to relay to all those rocking the red Friday night for Game Five: "Keep your head up. We need support right now," Ovechkin said. "Like last year. Fans were great all season long. Wish us well. Scream loud."

The owner, Ted Leonsis, got into the act as well. On his blog this morning, he had this to say to his team's fans:
When All is Said and Done…Usually more is said than done.

We don’t have to say too much now. It is win or go home.

We know it. Our fans know it. The media knows it.

The New York Post today blared a headline this morning “Lundquist Set to Cap-ture Series”. Get it?

We are in a 3-1 hole and not many people are expecting us to climb out of it.

It is put up or shut up.

See you tonight at Verizon. Rock the Red. Be loud and proud. Go Caps!

Green Norris Finalist

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Friday, April 24, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

Congratulations Mike Green!!

Photo 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

Professional Hockey Writers' Association selected three finalists for the Norris Trophy to be presented at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 18.

Mike Green - Washington Capitals
Zdeno Chara - Boston Bruins
Nicklas Lidstrom - Detroit Red Wings (Winner of six of last seven Norris Trophies)

The Washington Capitals had 39 shots on goal, and hit the post twice, but only got one puck behind Henrik Lundqvist as they fell in Game Four to the New York Rangers 2-1.

Alex Ovechkin gathered his first goal of the series, and hit the post late in the third period. Sergei Fedorov also clanged one off a pipe. And as hard as Sean Avery tried to give the Caps an advantage, they just could not capitalize on two late power plays, and ended up going 0-for-6 with the extra man.

Henrik Lundqvist was again "the man" for New York, making 38 saves and generally looking twice his size in net against the Washington snipers. But other than sheer volume, he wasn't particularly tested, with most shots coming from the perimeter.

The goal he allowed, as well as the two that rang off posts, were from long distance.

There was precious little net-charging from the Caps forwards as there was in Game Three's 4-0 Caps victory.

Simeon Varlamov played well again for Washington in goal, and the Rangers' first goal, a slap shot by Paul Mara that was redirected in the face-off circle, certainly could not be attributed to the 20-year old rookie.

But the game-winner was another story. Rangers' captain Chris Drury lofted a wrist shot that perhaps surprised Varlamov with it's softness, and the goalie could not close his glove on it. The puck bounced right back to Drury, and he chipped it over the confused goalie's right shoulder for the difference maker.

After the second goal, Washington played with a ferocity that they should have opened the game with. They dominated play in the second and third period, outshooting the Rangers 30-10 over the two periods.

Washington even had the advantage on power plays. Mara took an interference 31 seconds after Drury's goals, but the power play came up empty on that, and each subsequent attempt.

The Caps were 0-for-6 on the power play, and despite their laurels for performance in the regular season, their lack of success with the extra-man in this series could haunt them.

"We have one of the best power plays. We have no excuse. We need to be better," said Mike Green from a dejected locker room.

Sean Avery gave the Caps two opportunities to take advantage of the extra man in the third. He swung wildly with a backhanded fist that landed on Milan Jurcina's nose, drawing blood and a two-minute roughing at 10:21 of the third, and hit Brian Pothier with a high-stick with 3:06 remaining.

Washington would keep the puck in the Rangers end the entire two minutes of the ensuing power play, but despite a flurry of shots, Lundqvist stood tall and kept the net clean. Neither team had an opportunity to change players, and all nine skaters were dead tired at the end of the shift.

The fatigue was still evident in the final minute, as Ovechkin, Green, et al. had trouble even moving the puck after Varlamov was lifted for the extra skater.

Game Five will be Friday night back at the Verizon Center at 7:00 p.m., with the Caps playing to avoid an embarrassing first round elimination.

The Washington Capitals had 39 shots on goal, and hit the post twice, but only got one puck behind Henrik Lundqvist and fell in Game Four to the New York Rangers 2-1.

Alex Ovechkin gathered his first goal of the series, and hit the post late in the third period. Sergei Fedorov also clanged one off a pipe. And as hard as Sean Avery tried to give the Caps an advantage, they just could not capitalize on two late power plays, and ended up going 0-for-6 with the extra man.

So, is Mike Green hurt? Either that, or he's sick. GM George McPhee, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet before Game Four, alluded to Green not being 100%, but would not elaborate.

Green has looked sluggish all series, but no more so than tonight's Game Four. Two shots on goals, four shots blocked, and two more missed shots don't really tell the story.

There just hasn't been a sense of urgency, no sense of speed with Green all series. His passes have lacked crispness, his shots that extra "something" that allowed him to be the seventh defenseman to register a 30-goal season in the history of the NHL.

He's been a shell of that player, the Norris Trophy candidate that looked unstoppable mid-season.

He led the team in ice time tonight, with 29:51. But was that out of habit? Out of necessity? Did the situation dictate it? Coach Bruce Boudreau did double shift at the end of the third period to get the offensive players on the ice.

But Green was not the best player on the ice. Not even close. And if the Caps have any chance of scratching their way back into this series, Green has to get better, quickly.

Photos of Varlamov and Avery (c) C. Nichols 2009. Photo of Ovechkin courtesy of AP.

The Washington Capitals, fresh off a 4-0 shutout of the New York Rangers in Game Three of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, look to play a carbon copy in Game Four tonight at 7:00 p.m. from fabled Madison Square Garden.


Twenty-year old rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov shut down and shut out the relatively feeble Ranger attack in Game Three, making 33 saves, controlling rebounds and deflecting pucks to the corners, and not allowing troublemaker Sean Avery to disrupt his concentration in front of the Washington goal.

Perhaps knowing very little English is a bonus in that regard.

"You don't have a conversation with your goalie out there too often," defenseman Shaone Morrisonn said.

The Rangers have gone a combined 112 minutes, 16 seconds without a goal in Games Two and Three, started by Varlamov.


While not completely silent, the Caps' two biggest names, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green, have been kept fairly well in check this series so far.

Ovechkin, the league's regular season goals leader, has no goals and four assists in three games, while Green, only the seventh defenseman in NHL history to record a 30-goal season, has just two helpers in the series.

This season, the Caps were 31-5-4 when Ovechkin scored and just 18-17-4 when he failed to get a goal. When Green scored this season the team was 19-4-3.

Ovechkin has 24 shots in the three games, an average of 8.0 per game, up from his season average of 6.68. Green, however, is down, with nine shots total (average of 3.0), compared to his season average of 3.57 shots per game.

Getting these two on track in Game Four would go a long way in evening the series.


Is Sean Avery, New York's resident bad boy, helping or hurting his team at this point?

Avery took four minor penalties and a game misconduct in Game Three. One of his penalties negated a Rangers' power play and another led to a Washington power play goal.

What's more, the Caps aren't getting rattled by his nonsense. Avery threw punches at both John Erskine and Simeon Varlamov and neither were met with retaliatory swings. The Caps were perfectly happy with Avery skating off the ice and taking their retaliation by having the extra man for two minutes.

For the series, Avery is pointless with a minus-1 rating, 10 shots on goal and 20 minutes in penalties.

I watched Game Three from the Red Loft bar at Nationals Park, waiting out the two-hour rain delay. The only reason we trudged out in the rain was the prospect of seeing Nats rookie Jordan Zimmermann make his MLB debut, and I knew I'd be able to watch the game at the Red Loft.

Mission accomplished on all fronts.

Alexander Semin scored twice, with Brooks Laich and Tom Poti chipping in, and Simeon Varlamov, he of the seven total NHL appearances, shut out the New York Rangers on 33 saves as the Washington Capitals took Game Three of the best-of-seven series 4-0.

I'll write a detailed summary in the morning, but here are some quick impressions, NOTEBOOK STYLE:

* Looks like the Caps got themselves a goalie.
* It's critical that the Caps get the first goal in the game. They just play differently.
* Donald Brashear made a big difference in the first period, mixing it up in the crease. That one play served notice that the Caps weren't going to get pushed around tonight.
* Sean Avery is a jerk. I don't think I would like him if he were on my team. He cost his team tonight.
* Special mention to John Erskine, who took a punch from Avery and stood his ground, drawing the roughing penalty.
* Bonus points to Laich for the garbage goal. GO TO THE NET!


Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, April 20, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

Photo 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

The Washington Capitals travel to New York to face the Rangers in Game Three of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs down two game to none. Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 35 shots he faced in Game Two, leading the Rangers to a 1-0 victory, sweeping the Caps off their home ice.


Washington had 35 shots on goal, with another 29 shots blocked and 24 misses in Game Two. One could imagine the Caps getting beaten by the Rangers many ways, but not being able to score goals probably wouldn't have been at the top of the list.

In fact, in Game Two Alex Ovechkin had more shots blocked than on goal, as did Mike Green.

Lundqvist, for his part, was solid, but did not need to be spectacular, as most of Washington's shots were from the perimeter. The Caps had one good flurry midway through the third period, but were unable to dent the Swede's armor, adding to the Rangers confidence factor, already high after taking Game One.


No one is going to confuse the Rangers with the 1985-86 Edmonton Oilers. They have serious deficiencies in the offensive end. But They have been very good about taking care of the puck, and taking it away from the Caps.

In Game One, the Caps had 11 giveaways and seven takeaways.

However, in Game Two the Caps had 24 giveaway, and the Rangers had 10 takeaways. It's a huge advantage to the Rangers if they can stay in the Caps passing lanes. It's been obvious that when the Caps struggle, they tend to complicate things more than simplify, looking for the "perfect" pass instead of crashing the net.

"Everyone's doing a great job sacrificing and trying to get in the way of pucks and not letting them get to [Lundqvist] as much as we can," defenseman Wade Redden said. "It's contagious -- you see other guys doing that, and you really try to do those little things that end up being big at the end of the night."


The Caps moved to rookie Simeon Varlamov for Game Two, and he played a solid game between the pipes. The one goal he allowed was on a 2-on-1 breakaway and perfect pass by Markus Naslund, setting up Ryan Callahan with the redirect goal. Varlamov made 23 saves and was agile and confident, two things Jose Theodore was not in Game One.

The move took Theodore by surprise.

"I didn't see that coming, to be honest," he said. "As one thing through my career that no one could take away was I was always a fighter and able to bounce back through big challenges. And for me, that was a big challenge. But I didn't have a chance to bounce back because I didn't play."

Coach Bruce Boudreau has not named a starter for tonight's game, and one supposes the announcement won't be public until the players come out for pre-game skate, like it was for Game Two.